Category Archives: Firefox

Modify Firefox to do full keyword searches

Today’s tip comes from Steve Lacy of, and helps you improve your Firefox keyword searches.

First, what’s a keyword search? In Firefox, you can type stuff in the location bar and press Enter. If you don’t type in a URL (such as “”) and instead type in a keyword (such as “tivo”), Firefox figures you want to do a keyword search. By default, Firefox performs a Google “I’m feeling lucky” search, which isn’t that useful. However, you can change it to do a regular Google search instead.

Here’s how to change the configuration:

  1. In Firefox, press Ctrl+L to go to the location bar. Type “about:config” and press Enter.
  2. A warning appears that this might void your warranty. To press the “I’ll be careful, I promise!” button, hit the Space Bar. A list of configuration items appears.
  3. By default, your cursor is in the “Filter” bar. Type “keyword.url” and after a second, just that option is listed.
  4. Press Tab a couple of times until the option is highlighted. Then press Enter, and a dialog box labeled “Enter string value” appears.
  5. Now, type in the following value for keyword.url:
    (The existing default string is pretty close to that — you’re basically just removing &gfns=1 from near the end of the default string.)

Now, press Ctrl+L and type in a keyword. Instead of just taking you to Google’s best guess of what you wanted to search for, you’ll now see a regular Google result page. Click the link you want.

Steve points out that one could easily change this option to any variety of other interesting URLs.

Shift+Click: Open link in new window (Firefox, Chrome, IE)

While I spend a lot of my day without ever touching the mouse, when browsing it’s definitely easier to click on a link to follow it (rather than having to hit Tab a few dozen times until the right link is selected, then pressing Enter).

When doing so, there are a couple of quick shortcuts that work with any browser.

To start with, try press Shift then next time you click on a link. Instead of replacing the current web page with the contents of your link, a new page appears, with the contents of whatever web page that you clicked on.

(You can then close this new window with Ctrl+W.)

Ctrl+E, Alt+Down Arrow: Choose Firefox search engine

Here’s the last of our Firefox tips, in celebration of the release of Firefox 3 last week.

We previously covered Ctrl+K to jump to the search box in the upper right. If you happen to use the Google toolbar, Ctrl+K has a different function, so some of you may prefer to use Ctrl+E to jump up there instead.

Now for the next step! Once your cursor is up there in the search box, type in a search term but do NOT press Enter to search yet.

Instead, you can press Alt+Down Arrow to pull down the list of search engines available. Then you can use the Up Arrow and Down Arrow to select a search engine, and then press Enter to search using that engine.

Firefox will remember your choice until the next time you change the engine using that same Alt+Down Arrow pulldown menu.
You can always use the Manage Search Engines menu item to edit your list of search engines. To add more, just press Tab Tab Enter from the Manage Search Engine List dialog box in order to hit that “Get more search engines…” link.

Ctrl+Shift+R (or Ctrl+F5): Reload page, overriding cache

Sometimes when you reload a page, you get the same old crufty stuff even though you KNOW there’s an update.

Why is that? Well, when you load a page, your browser stores a local copy on your computer — this is called a cache. Whenever you visit a page, Firefox asks the remote server if there’s any update to the version that’s saved locally. If the host says yes, then Firefox fetches the updated page. If the last updated date is not after the date of the one you have locally, then Firefox displays the version from your cache instead, saving bandwidth and time.

Occasionally this screws up (usually because the host is returning bad info about when the page was updated). So if you just KNOW there’s an update, you need to reload the page, overriding the cache.

To do that, press Ctrl+Shift+R, or Ctrl+F5 — this is sometimes called a “forced reload.”

Alt+Enter: Open selected address bar site in a new tab (or Ctrl+Alt+Enter to auto-complete in new tab)

You already know you can press Ctrl+T to open a new tab in Firefox, and then press Ctrl+L to change focus to the location bar, where you can start typing the URL and press Enter to go to the page.

Try out this sequence instead — you might find it more intuitive.

  1. Press Ctrl+L (or Alt+D or F6) to move your focus to the address bar.
  2. Start typing the URL. At this point, Firefox’s address completion kicks in, and you can use the up and down arrow keys to select the site you want to visit.
  3. Instead of pressing Enter to open the site, or Ctrl+Enter to turn “tivo” into “,” try pressing Alt+Enter. The site you have selected automatically opens in a new tab. Whatever page you were viewing stays in its own tab.

Even faster, you can also press Ctrl+Alt+Enter to automatically complete the URL in a new tab. So:

  1. Press Ctrl+L to move your focus to the address bar.
  2. Type a word for the domain name, such as google.
  3. Press Ctrl+Alt+Enter. The domain name is turned into a full URL (so “google” becomes “”) and a new tab is opened with that page.

Ctrl+Shift+Del: Clear all private data in Firefox

Suppose you’re in a library or using someone else’s computer. You don’t want them to see your form submissions or list of visited sites, right? That’s your business, not theirs.

Ctrl+Shift+Del and a dialog box appears, with some default items to clear checked, and others not. (Remember you can use Tab and Space to change the checkmarks.) Once you press Enter, you’ve just wiped out all of your history (and theirs too, for that matter). Bookmarks do stay.

(Under Tools | Options, there’s a Privacy tab. Sadly you have to use the mouse to select this tab. Once there, you can select the “Always clear my private data when I close Firefox” option, if you find yourself clearing private data frequently. This option is off by default.)

Ctrl+1, Ctrl+2, etc.: Switch tabs in Firefox — Ctrl+9 for last tab

In Firefox, once you’ve opened a new tab (with Ctrl+T, remember?), you already knew you could use Ctrl+Page Up and Ctrl+Page Down to switch tabs.

But you can also use Ctrl followed by a number key.

  • Ctrl+1: Switch to the first tab
  • Ctrl+2: Switch to the second tab
  • Ctrl+3: Switch to the third tab
  • Ctrl+4: Switch to the fourth tab
  • Ctrl+5: Switch to the fifth tab
  • Ctrl+6: Switch to the sixth tab
  • Ctrl+7: Switch to the seventh tab
  • Ctrl+8: Switch to the eighth tab
  • Ctrl+9: Switch to the LAST tab

No matter how many tabs you have open, Ctrl+9 will switch to the one that’s on the far right.

(You may wonder: What does Ctrl+0 do? Well, if you’ve used Ctrl+= or Ctrl+- to change the font sizes on a page, Ctrl+0 sets all the font sizes back to the default.)

F6: Cycle through panes (Firefox, Outlook, PowerPoint)

Whenever you have an application screen with multiple sections, try pressing F6 to cycle between them.

In Firefox, it toggles between the address bar and the web page — unless you’re viewing a web page with frames, in which case each press of F6 moves you to a different frame.
In Outlook, you can switch between the header of an e-mail (where you type the To address, Subject, etc.) and the body of the e-mail.

In PowerPoint, you’ll move between the slide, the notes, and the outline on the left.

Ctrl+H: History window (Firefox, Internet Explorer)

Ever think to yourself, “What was that web site I visited yesterday? Something about shoes?”

In your browser, press Ctrl+H. A side panel appears, showing a history of sites you’ve visited.

In Firefox, the cursor appears in a Search box by default, so type in “shoes” and press Enter, and you’ll find sites with that word in the title or URL.

There’s also a View button. Press Alt+W, then Spacebar, and you can organize your browser history window by site, date, most visited, or most recently visited instead of the default that shows a combination of date and site.

When you’re done with the history sidebar, press Ctrl+H to toggle it off.

F11: Full screen mode (Firefox)

In Firefox, tap the F11 key and all of a sudden, plenty of screen clutter disappears, allowing you to view the current web page without as much distraction.

Sure, there’s the tool bar (and possibly the tab bar, if more than one tab is open) on the top, and the find bar (if open) on the bottom. But other than that, just you and your web page.

Hit F11 again to turn full-screen mode off.

Shift+Delete: Remove form auto-complete entry (Firefox)

Ever have an annoying situation in Firefox where you start filling out a form, but when it helpfully tries to finish your typing for you with some personal information, you see a typo in there? And you think, “Woah, that’s wrong — I don’t want that text ever popping up again.”

Well, here’s how to fix it.

Next time you see the auto-complete entry appear, try this: press the down arrow to highlight the entry you want to remove, then press Shift+Delete. The entry disappears.

This works in the address bar as well!

Note: The saved text will return if you enter that text again — so either don’t make that typo again, or consider disabling Firefox’s form-fill feature under Tools | Options | Privacy | Remember what I enter in Forms and the search bar.

Alt+Enter: Save link (Firefox)

Suppose you’re using Firefox, and you end up on a web page with a bunch of files you want to save. You can right-click on each link, choose “Save Link As…” then click OK, then repeat over and over. What a pain!

Here’s a faster way.

First, press Tab until you get to the link you want to save. (You may have to press Tab quite a few times, depending on the page. One hint is to first scroll down so that the link you want to save is at the top of the page. Or, click on the link and drag down a little bit before letting go off the mouse button, which will select the link without clicking on it.)

Once the link you want to save is highlighted, press Alt+Enter and the Downloads window appears, showing your progress as file is saved.

Now press Alt+Tab to switch back from the Downloads window to your main browser window, or close the Downloads window (by pressing Ctrl+W or Alt+F4).

Now you can repeat: Tab, Alt+Enter, Alt+F4, Tab, Alt+Enter, Alt+F4 — and keep repeating until all the files are saved.

(By the way, in Internet Explorer, pressing Alt+Enter just does the same thing as Enter — it follows the link as if you clicked on it. In many other applications, we saw previously that Alt+Enter opens the Properties menu.)

Ctrl+U: View Source in Firefox

Maybe you’ll never need this one, but sometimes you want to see the actual HTML code used to create a web page.

In Firefox, go to the page you want to view and then press Ctrl+U. A new Window appears with the HTML code visible and colored appropriately.

(In Internet Explorer, you can press Alt+V to open the View menu, then press C to select the Source command. A Notepad window appears with the HTML code available for editing.)

Remember, Alt+F4 closes a window — use that when you’re done looking at the source HTML code.

Ctrl+B: Open Bookmarks pane in Firefox

Press Ctrl+B and a new pane appears on the left side of your Firefox browser: The Bookmarks pane. Your cursor will automatically appear in the search box. Type in a few letters, and only those pages you’ve bookmarked that include those letters are listed. Press Tab to jump down to the results, and then press Enter on the one you want to open. Press Ctrl+B again to toggle off the Bookmarks pane.

(Note that in Internet Explorer, Ctrl+B lets you organize your bookmarks.)

Ctrl+F, Enter: Repeat Find in Firefox

Following on from yesterday’s tip, you can repeat a find (looking further on the page for the text you want) in two different ways.

One easy way is press Ctrl+F to re-open the Find box at the bottom of the screen, then press Enter. Each time you press Enter, you’ll jump down to the next occurrence of the text you’re looking for. (Note that this also works in Internet Explorer.)

Another way is you can press Alt+N to search for the Next example (as long as the Find box is visible).

/: Find on page in Firefox

It’s time for another week of Firefox shortcuts.

Firefox is the open-source Web browser from Mozilla; learn more about it (and download it for free) here.

I previously reported that you can use Ctrl+F to Find text. Well, in Firefox, you can do it even faster — just hit the slash key (down on the lower right, next to the period and right Shift key).

Immediately your cursor will move to a Quick Find box at the bottom of the screen. Type in the text that you want to find on the current page in your browser, and you’ll automatically jump to the appropriate place and see that text highlighted.

Ctrl+W: Close Window

In a lot of applications, Ctrl+W will close the current window (and in the case of an application like Microsoft Word, prompt you to save the current document if it hasn’t been saved already).

Let’s see an example and put together some of the Firefox tips from this week. Suppose you’re reading a Web page and suddenly need to check a different site (for example, you’re browsing a vacation site and want to check the weather). Press Ctrl+T to open a new tab, type in the site name such as “weatherunderground,” press Ctrl+Enter to complete the URL name and load the page, find the information you need, then press Ctrl+W to close the new tab.

Ctrl+Page Up and Ctrl+Page Down: Change tabs

If a program or dialog box has tabs (different divided sections or pages with a label at the top), chances are that Ctrl+Page Up and Ctrl+Page Down will change tabs.

Try this out with Firefox and Excel to start off.

In Firefox, remember from yesterday that you can create a new tab with Ctrl+T. Now use Ctrl+Page Up to rotate through the pages (or Ctrl+Page Down to rotate the other way).

In Excel, you’ll start out with three sheets (Sheet1, Sheet2, Sheet3) when you start a new document. Ctrl+Page Down will move from Sheet1 to Sheet2 and Sheet2 to Sheet3. Ctrl+Page Up will move from Sheet3 to Sheet2 or Sheet2 to Sheet1.

For dialog boxes, if Ctrl+Page Up and Ctrl+Page Down don’t change tabs for you, try Ctrl+Left Arrow and Ctrl+Right Arrow, or Ctrl+Up Arrow and Ctrl+Down Arrow. Unfortunately, applications aren’t always as consistent as we’d like.

Ctrl+T: Create a new tab in Firefox

In Firefox, each tab is a separate window for browsing. You can start a new tab by pressing Ctrl+T. A new tab appears, and your cursor is put into the Address bar to type in a URL. (Remember you can type the main part of the address, such as “TiVo,” and then press Ctrl+Enter to turn it into )

Ctrl+K: Search the Web in Firefox

In Firefox, press Ctrl+K and — ta da! — your cursor will jump up to the search box in the upper right. Type in a search term (such as “TiVo”) and press Enter. The search results will be displayed in the current browser window, using your default search engine.

If you want to change the search engine by choosing a different one from the pulldown list built in to Firefox, you can press Alt+Down Arrow when your cursor is in the search box, and you’ll see the pulldown menu. Use the Up or Down Arrow keys until the search engine you want is highlighted, then press Enter.

(Note that this feature is for finding web pages. If you just want to search for text on the current web page, you want to Find instead.)

Ctrl+= and Ctrl+Dash: Increase and decrease font size in Firefox and Thunderbird

Following last week’s general browser tips, here’s one that works for Firefox and Thunderbird.

  • Ctrl+=: Increase font size
  • Ctrl+Dash: Decrease font size

Press Ctrl+= (that is, the Ctrl key held down, and then the = key) and the font size on the current page or e-mail will increase.

(A lot of people write this tip as Ctrl+Plus, because the mnemonic of the + key increasing the font size is easy to remember, but you don’t need the Shift key in there.)

Ctrl+Dash (that is, the – key, or minus — the key right next to the = key) will reduce the font size.

Each time you press the key, the font gets bigger or smaller. When you want to go back to normal, press Ctrl+0. (Thanks to Steve in the comments for that last one.)
(This is a little hard to write, given the terminology I’m using. I should refer to “Control with the Plus key” as Ctrl++ and “Control with the Dash key” as Ctrl+- but that looks really weird. Sorry if today’s tip is confusing!)

Ctrl+R or F5: Refresh in Internet Explorer and Firefox

Some people like coffee and some people prefer tea. Similarly, some keyboard users are function key people, and others prefer keystroke combinations. That brings us to today’s browser tip. Sometimes you want to reload a page in your browser. (Say, for example, you’re reading a news site and want to see the latest headlines). You can hit the F5 function key, or you can press Ctrl+R.

Doesn’t matter which one you use. And it doesn’t matter if your browser is Internet Explorer or Firefox. Either way, you’re gonna get your refresh without having to use a mouse to hit that toolbar button.

And grab a cup of coffee and tea while you’re at it.

Ctrl+L: Open Location Bar/URL bar in Internet Explorer and Firefox

This week we’ll focus on browser shortcuts which work in both Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox.

The first one is Ctrl+L. In Firefox, this jumps your cursor up to the URL bar, where you can type in a URL such as “” In Internet Explorer, an Open dialog box appears and you can type in a URL such as “”

If you want to jump your cursor up to the URL box, press Alt+D. (Thanks to Tony and Igg for the tip!)

Bonus Tip: Once your cursor is in the URL box, if you type in a word like “google” and press Ctrl+Enter, the browser will automatically expand it to the full URL name, “,” (Sadly, this doesn’t work in IE’s Open dialog box.)